Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This was a new twist on a coming of age book, with not one, but three protagonists. And to a small extent it is even a bit of a love triangle – the MCs are not only trying to figure out how to relate to each other, but also how to fit platonic, familial, and romantic love into the right places in their lives.
Aiden and Max Kingsman, as the blurb says, were identical twins who had been pretty much inseparable for their entire lives to this point. Aiden was the quiet, bookish one, and though he was accepted into a more prestigious university, he chose to attend a less prominent college to stay with his brother and share an apartment. Max had always been more outgoing, loved to be the boss and usually had no trouble getting Aiden and their best friend Oliver to follow his lead. Despite the differences in temperament, most people couldn’t tell them apart – even their parents had trouble – but Oliver always knew.
Oliver Jones was the only child of parents who fought loudly and bitterly all the time. His greatest wish was to be Aiden and Max’s brother (which led to a cute opening chapter of six year old Max marrying Oliver, with Aiden officiating), not only because they were best friends, but because their house seemed so much safer and more peaceful. When his parents divorced while the boys were in middle school, Oliver moved with his mother to NYC, his father moved to California, and the boys inevitably lost contact.
Years later, Oliver arrived back in their little town of Irvington, NY to spend the summer with his father who had also recently moved back to the area to be closer to Oliver as well as to his extended family. Oliver was thrilled to run into Max and Aiden, and they picked up their friendship pretty much where they left it off when he moved, with one big change – Oliver and Aiden were both gay, and ready to act on the crushes they each had on the other so many years ago.
The book is told in alternating points of view from Aiden, Max, and Oliver. All three characters were given equal time, and equal priority, which I felt really highlighted the fact that friendship and family are just as important as romantic love. Both sets of parents are also involved, their own relationships providing good and bad examples of how to incorporate those types of love into healthy (and not so healthy) lives. Each of the men had some pretty unpleasant epiphanies about why they felt the way they did about each other, attitudes that were left over from their childhood experiences that they needed to let go of. A lot of buried resentments, trust issues, and jealousies emerged that were much more powerful than any of them expected, and as the summer progressed, threatened to not just drive Oliver out of the twin’s lives, but to drive Max and Aiden apart as well. The character growth came as they identified these problems and faced them down with compassion, with the underlying confidence that the results would be worth the pain.
Overall, this was a great read, with fully three dimensional characters who adapted and grew, definitely character driven rather than plot driven, but engaging and thought provoking, and I finished it with a real sense of satisfaction and contentment.
Cover art by L.C. Chase really made me think – at first I just assumed it was Aiden and Oliver, but as I read the book and got to know the characters, I realized it could have been any of them. Their bonds were just that close!
ebook, 287 pages
Published May 21st 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleFourteen Summers
ISBN 1626497648 (ISBN13: 9781626497641)